We are a very lucky people. At times like these, it is quite easy to fall into despair – we are living through a time of war in Israel and, all over the world, those that dislike us are feeling
emboldened. However, if we look at how Jewish people have dealt with tragedy from time immemorial, it has always been to remind ourselves of what we have, and how lucky we truly are. In a recent interview, Tal Becker, of Yavneh alumni fame, spoke about his reflections on Yom HaAtzmaut that notwithstanding the challenges we face, our generation remains the envy of the last 2000 years of Jewish history – since the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. That we are able to travel to Israel, that we can visit the Kotel, that the Jewish world is living though an incredible renaissance, cannot be taken for granted.

Indeed, as polls consistently have shown, Israelis are among the happiest nation in the world – ranking 4th out of 109 countries surveyed in the 2023 World Happiness Report. What is the secret to our happiness? Kabala teaches us that there is a direct link between מחשבה (thought) and being בשמחה (happy). Indeed the two words share the same letters. Happiness is not merely about luck, but is in great measure about perspective. One can look at Jewish history and notice only its tragedies, or one can think about the joy and confidence that Shabbat, Chagim, tefilla and faith has continually brought Jewish families and communities.

This week a documentary was released on Sky News, moderated by Josh Frydenberg, former treasurer and deputy head of the Liberal Party. Upon viewing the documentary, I felt sadness in what our people are having to suffer and the very little public support we have received – especially when compared to the other minorities for whom public sympathy appears boundless. However, a more dominant feeling within me was one of pride and gratitude, hearing certain Australian leaders take an unequivocal stand against antisemitism as well as identifying with Zionism and its objective to ensure that the Jewish people are able to live securely in their historic homeland. This same gratitude I felt towards the many non-Jewish attendees (and organisers) of the recent Never Again rally in the city centre. While one can focus on the haters, we also have the ability to remind ourselves of the love that is being directed our way.

At Yavneh, our students are blessed in their ongoing experience of the joy of Judaism. Judaism permeates their day, with tefilla, limmud hatorah and an environment infused with the rhythms of the Jewish calendar. Term 2 began with the Yoms, which took on an added significance this year and has continued with Lag Ba’Omer celebrations, with tzevet-run Yom Yerushalayim experiences for students of Years 4-10, a series of optional lunchtime shiurim in secondary commencing next week in preparation for Matan Torah, as well as a special Y10-12 girls shabbaton scheduled for next Shabbat.

These experiences ensure that Judaism is, and always will, be associated with positivity and meaning, and will never become a burden or something that one chas veshalom wishes to hide or escape from.

Parshat Bechukotai reminds us of that life can be filled with blessings and curses. Interestingly, the blessings and curses are linked to observance and nonobservance of the Torah and HaShem’s will. Perhaps one interpretation of this is that the more that one connects themselves to HaShem’s will, the more that one obtains meaning in their life – and meaning is a direct portal to blessings and happiness. As such, the blessings are not only a reward for observing HaShem’s will, but are also its natural outcome. A Judaism devoid of a rich connection with HaShem, is one in which tends to become defined by those who remind us of our Judaism in unfriendly ways.

May we very soon merit a time in which uncertainty and fear are forever replaced with confidence and love, with the coming of Mashiach.